Team chasing has suffered its first death for many years.
Competitor Jo Rugman was fatally injured after her horse hit the top of the fourth fence and fell in the VWH national team chase qualifier at Ampney Down Farm, near Cirencester last Sunday (6 March).
H&H was unable to ascertain at the time of going to press whether the horse fell on her, but it was reportedly unhurt.
Mrs Rugman was riding for the RoR Lycetts A Class Act team, with whom she qualified for this year’s national championships.
Her team was the second on the open course and three team-mates had already cleared the tyre fence when Mrs Rugman fell.
A horse in the first team to go had broken a pastern earlier and had been put down.
Event organiser Jo Verey said: “Jo was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital, where she was very sadly confirmed as a fatality. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends.”
Mrs Rugman, of Drayton, Banbury, was 37 and married to John. They have two children, Harry, nine, and Isabel, seven.
Mrs Rugman was a joint-secretary of the Warwickshire hunt. Joint-master Sam Butler told H&H that she was “a proper horsewoman”.
“Jo was as good on a horse as anyone I know in Warwickshire; she rode well and with courage,” said Mr Butler.
“She was also a wonderful mother and will be remembered with pride and affection by John, Harry and Isabel, and her friends.”
And Andrew Shipley, who was her team-mate for five years, said: “She was a loving mum, a great friend and a fantastic jockey. It was a privilege to ride on the same team as her.”
Charlotte Alexander, another of Jo’s team-mates, added: “Jo was a beautiful rider, she was fiercely competitive and adored her hunting and team chasing. She was always smiling, was a terrific mother to Harry and Isabel and a wonderful wife to John who supported her in all her equine activities and who was as competitive as Jo in his encouragement from the ground.”
The RoR Lycetts A Class Act team will continue to ride in Jo’s honour. “John has asked that our team continues to compete this season in memory of Jo,” said Ms Alexander. “He wants us to go out there and win for her as she was so happy when competing.
James Buckle, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) team chasing committee, offered his “heartfelt condolences to Jo’s family, on behalf of the whole team chasing world”.
He described the accident as “horrendous and cruel”.
“The going was almost perfect,” he said.
“It was a fence unchanged from previous years, being jumped in the middle of the day by one of the most experienced team chasers.”
The competition was abandoned after the incident.
Allen Brown, a fellow rider and member of the MFHA team chase committee, said: “It is a very sad day. The organisers have done nothing wrong. It is a lovely course and the going is very good.”
The accident is being investigated by Gloucestershire Police and a report has been sent to the MFHA team chasing committee.
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (10 March, 2011)